CATIC has sent out recent alerts in order to provide you with the most current information concerning CATIC’s procedures and underwriting guidance.
We understand that both you and your clients have questions that have arisen over the past two weeks, and this bulletin is the second in an ongoing series of bulletins and other communications to answer them. This bulletin addresses questions regarding:
The closure of many town halls and the severe reduction of operations at others have resulted in limited or no access to the land records for purposes of completing a title search. Nevertheless, CATIC is committed to doing whatever it can to support the successful completion of real estate transactions, despite these disruptions to the normal process of due diligence.
- How can I know whether the town hall is closed or operating at a diminished capacity?
Among the many Agent Alerts CATIC is sending out are regular reports detailing the status of town halls in all of Connecticut’s 169 towns. The alerts include a complete list of the towns along with notations regarding the extent of any access to the land records or any services the town is providing. While this list (referred to in this Bulletin as CATIC’s List) is updated as soon as new information is received, CATIC recommends using any specific contacts noted for individual towns to confirm the availability of access or services. You can find the most recent CATIC's List on our COVID-19
under Connecticut/Town Hall Update.
- If the town hall is closed, but there is access to the land records online, will CATIC recognize the validity of a search done completely online?
An online search is fine when there is access to all of the online records needed to complete the search for the subject transaction and underwrite a CATIC policy. CATIC’s List includes a link to the service the town uses for its online records. At this time, lack of a subscription to a particular service should not prevent access to the records, but if you do encounter any difficulty, please give CATIC a call. If access is limited to the grantor/grantee index and you are unable to view documents, that may not be a problem. For example, if the transaction is a refinance and requires only a bringdown, and the online index discloses no intervening liens or transfers, then the inability to view a document is irrelevant. In other cases where one needs to review a document, it may be possible to obtain a copy of that document through another source (see the Additional Sources section later in this Bulletin). Again, call CATIC if you have any questions.
- If there is online access but the online records do not go back far enough to complete the search needed for the specific transaction, are there other ways to complete the search?
There can be other ways to complete the search. For example, if the online land records go back only to 2006, the seller subsequently mortgaged the property, and the seller can furnish a copy of the mortgage transaction’s title search dated 2006 or later, then the earlier search most likely provides all the information needed. Some town clerks’ offices have been willing to e-mail copies of select grantor/grantee index entries after receiving a formal request (described in more detail in the next section). If you have an incomplete search, contact one of the
and there’s a good chance we’ll find a solution.
While most town halls have announced that they are closed to the public, some without online capability have tried to accommodate those who need to search the land records by offering limited services. Some have allowed access to the land records by appointment. Others have allowed access for an allotted time period on a first-come, first-served basis. Still other towns are preventing public access to the town hall, but town clerks are willing to e-mail copies of entries in the grantor/grantee index regarding owners of the property, and one can use this method to reconstruct the chain of title and find, for example, voluntary or involuntary transfers. These towns require an e-mail request and may also be willing to e-mail copies of actual documents noted in the indices. Check CATIC’s List for a notation about possible options, but before heading over to a town hall, confirm the availability and conditions of access and make an appointment if necessary.
Again, if some information is missing and there is a need to find that information elsewhere, consider the strategies outlined in the Additional Sources section below.
are available for additional assistance.
- What if it is impossible to do any kind of title search?
When the town hall is shut down completely and the town clerk is unable to provide any access to the land records, there might still be some ways of finding the information needed to close a particular transaction. If you are facing this situation, however, contact CATIC directly.
Here are some of the places where vital information can be found:
- A recent title insurance policy, policy commitment, or back title of any kind, including an earlier title search or copies of recorded documents from attorney files. (Note: we encourage the buyer’s attorney to request back title from the seller’s counsel.)
- Records from court proceedings that transfer or establish the title to the property, such as a foreclosure. Information may be online or from attorney files.
- Current credit reports.
- Tax records, including assessor field cards.
- Probate Records. Information may be online, available at select probate courts, or in attorney files.
If some of this information is available, then contact CATIC directly for underwriting guidance; additional arrangements may be needed to underwrite any policy, including, for example, an agreement and indemnity from the owner to CATIC.
QUALIFIED RESIDENTIAL REFINANCE
When there is little or no current title information available, it may be difficult to insure purchase transactions without some significant exceptions in a policy, particularly an owner policy; however, there is more flexibility when insuring a residential refinance.
CATIC will insure a residential refinance transaction even though information from the land records is unavailable as long as the transaction and the borrower meet certain underwriting requirements. Contact a
to discuss the details of these requirements.
All of the guidance and information in this Bulletin applies not only to searches performed by agents or their staffs, but also to searchers handling TOPS requests.
In the next Information Bulletin, CATIC will address questions regarding recording.